“They did not give any warning or say anything to us. I voluntarily turned the vehicle around,” said her son. “They opened fire at us, the bullets hit her.” He broke down as he said that his mother
had “died on the spot”
Forty-five-year-old Kounsar Sofi’s house in Firdousabad of Srinagar’s Batamaloo area had echoed with wedding songs and celebrations just a fortnight ago but today, 17 September, the wailing of mourners resonated in the locality.
Like any other day, Ms. Kounsar had left her home at about 3:30 am, just before dawn, to start baking bread for the locality’s several dozen residents at their kandur waan, traditional bakery shop, in the Barapathar area of Batamaloo. A gunfight had erupted just the previous night.
Ms. Kounsar was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle being driven by her son, Aqib Sofi, 25, when she spotted a posse of government forces at some distance. “They did not give any warning or say anything to us. I voluntarily turned the vehicle around,” said Mr. Aqib. “They opened fire at us, the bullets hit her.”
Mr. Aqib broke down as he said that his mother had “died on the spot”. Protests broke out in the Batamaloo area after the news of Ms. Kounsar’s death had spread, the mourners, mostly young boys, clashed with the government forces who resorted to tear gas shelling.
The police, however, in a statement, said that Ms. Kounsar and a paramilitary trooper were “seriously injured” in the “initial indiscriminate firing” by the militants. “The injured lady succumbed to her injuries on spot,” it said, adding that a gunfight ensued thereafter, in which three militants were killed.
Senior Superintendent of Police in Srinagar, Haseeb Mughal, said: “We have given the statement already. My IG (Inspector-General of Police) and DG (Director-General of Police) have already spoken, now I have no mandate to speak on this operation.”
A dead body detained
According to the local residents, however, the sound of gunfire had stopped by around 2:00 am; after which, the government forces conducted searches in the area. “There was no gunfight going on at that time,” said Riyaz Ahmad, who lives close to the Sofi family’s bakery in Barapathar area. “Security forces had launched a cordon and search operation in the area.”
Around 3:45 in the morning, when Ms. Kounsar was shot dead. Mr. Aqib said that he had tried to keep his calm and take her to the hospital but he realized that his mother had “died on the spot”. The government forces ran towards them and directed Mr. Aqib to “get in their vehicle, with his mother’s body” to the Police Control Room (PCR), a short distance from the area.
“I told them I will take my mother myself,” he said, and further recalled that he had shouted at the forces: “Tohi kyaze mearwan mouj meyn? Why did you kill my mother?” the government forces stood indifferent.
He was then, however, escorted to the Police Station in Batamaloo. There, the Station House Officer (SHO) did not allow him to leave until 7 am. “The SHO kept telling me to wait,” he said, adding that he had responded saying: “What will I wait for now? I had a mother and she is dead now. What should I do now.”
“My mother [Ms. Kounsar] is still there,” he rued, at 12:35 pm.
A relative of the Sofi family said that the “police had said that they can’t give the body back without a written assurance that there will be no public outcry [resulting in a law and order situation].” The relative added: “How can we guarantee that nothing would happen?”
“Where are you, mother?”
As the bands of young boys poured onto the streets, in anger, the lane leading to the Sofi residence — in which they shifted from Barapathar, just last month when Mr. Aqib had gotten married — was littered with bricks and stones while burning tires and logs of wood blocked the road at many places.
Close to their residence, small children lead a group of mourners shouting slogans against the government forces. “Ze’liman heund byoul, khodayan ghoul (May God destroy the seeds of the oppressors).” The crowd of mourners gathered in the Sofi residence’s courtyard was convinced that Ms. Kounsar’s death happened due to “a targeted killing”.
“This is what happens here [in Kashmir],” a group of men shouted back, in agreement.
“People have been writing about our [collective] suffering for seventy-two years. When nothing happened all these years, what will happen now if this will be written?” another angry mourner shouted. “Kashmir police is also our own. [But] they are also traitors.”
“He [Mr. Aqib] was not a terrorist,” shouted Mr. Aqib’s aunt, tears rolling down her cheeks. Ms. Kounsar is survived by her husband and two sons. “Why did they fire at them? Why did they [government forces] kill her [Ms. Kounsar]?”
The eldest among two brothers, Mr. Aqib still wore the clothes that were stained with his mother’s blood when he threw himself from the porch in restlessness. “Mummy’ey kati chakh? Where are you, mother?” he cried out in the courtyard.
At the time of filing this report, the Sofi family and mourners still awaited Ms. Kounsar’s dead body to be
returned by the police.